Aquaculture programs teach people to raise finfish, shellfish, and marine plants in controlled environments. Students learn marine and aquatic biology. In addition, they study health and nutrition for fish and marine plants. They learn to design and operate facilities that cultivate or process marine products.
Growing human populations create a greater demand for seafood. Fish are a great source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease. And fish and seafood simply taste good. Yet because of high demands, fish populations are at risk from over fishing and habitat destruction. As a result, aquaculture has become the newest and fastest growing sector of agriculture.
Not all farm and hatchery fish are sold directly for food. Many are raised to restock depleted supplies in lakes and streams. Some aquaculturists grow underwater plants such as kelp for food, vitamin supplements, medicine, or as underwater flora. They may sell their plants to zoos, pet stores, and marine exhibits. Also, they may process marine plants as food or vitamins, or sell them to pharmaceutical labs.
In aquaculture programs, your course work is mostly science-based. You take courses in biology, anatomy, and physiology. You study life cycles in aquatic environments. This means that you learn how fish breed and underwater plants grow and thrive. You study the best ways to raise fish and seafood and grow plants. In many programs, you take business courses as well. This gives you skills in management, marketing and sales.
Aquaculture technicians usually need at least two years of college. Aquaculture scientists usually need at least four. Every state has a land grant college that offers agricultural science programs. Few colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees specifically in aquaculture. In many cases, you major in agriculture with a concentration in aquaculture. In addition, a handful of community colleges offer two-year agriculture programs that can be transferred to a four-year school.
A few schools offer graduate degree programs in aquaculture. These programs take from two to five years after you finish your bachelor's degree. Most people with graduate degrees in aquaculture become professors and researchers.
Students who major in aquaculture may choose concentrations in certain types of marine food or in phases of cultivation, harvesting, processing, and marketing.